Let’s take a trip to the farm system of the Edmonton Oilers to see what the future looks like on the Bakersfield Condors.
With all the slowdowns and suspensions of sports, it’s tough to make any live material right now but that doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a dearth of material. Let’s check in with the Edmonton Oilers farm team, the Bakersfield Condors.
Lest we forget, one of the only bright spots of Peter Chiarelli’s tenure as Oilers GM was he was the first GM in team history to see the mediocre drafting that has been going on for decades in the organization for what it was and was the first GM to have the guts to do a housecleaning of the scouting staff.
Since 2015, the Oilers have become much better at drafting and we’re already seeing the fruits of that labour since Kailer Yamamoto and Ethan Bear – now regulars – joined the team with Caleb Jones poised to join them pretty quick as well if his play keeps up and the team can make room for him on the roster – I got into how we can do that in my last blog here.
SIDEBAR: I don’t count Connor Mcdavid because think of the most incompetent GM in NHL history and I guarantee you he still would’ve picked him at #1 in 2015. Leon Draisaitl was picked in 2014 so he doesn’t count.
Anyway, now we actually have prospects of note on the farm because of said better drafting, so it’s worth exploring how we’re looking for next season – or possibly this season whenever the AHL resumes play.
I’m going to look at all 3 of the general positions (forward, defence, and goaltending) and see what we’re working with here.
Projected arrivals – Raphael Lavoie, Yanni Kaldis, James Hamblin
Explanation – Interestingly enough, Lavoie is the only guy who was an actual draft pick of the Oilers. Lavoie absolutely killed it in the QMJHL and – like the NHL and AHL, the CHL has suspended the season in all 3 junior leagues, so technically he’s still killing it in junior. Lavoie is the only one of the 3 newcomers who seems legitimately destined for an NHL career. The other 2 are on AHL-only contracts – usually, those guys don’t make a lot of noise and aren’t NHL calibre, but never say never in this business. Losing Yamamoto was a bit of a blow to the farm, but the hope is Lavoie’s offence can translate to the pros.
Expect him to get a possible call-up close to the end of next season at the earliest. Not a whole lot of raw rookies coming in, as 5 years of decent drafting means a lot of returning guys who are still developing. The bad news on the forward front is the Oilers don’t have a lot of top 6 forwards bubbling under other than Lavoie, who as a raw rookie we can’t expect to make a lot of noise in the NHL this season. Most of the forwards are either AHL veterans, AHL bubble players, or bottom 6 NHL players at best. Look for Ken Holland to shore up this weakness in the coming drafts.
While going through this exercise it was amazing to me how many forward prospects are developing outside the AHL right now – other than the 3 listed above, all other Oilers prospects of note are either staying in Europe for next season or taking the US college route.
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Explanation – Kuffner was a throw-in in the Athanasiou trade with Detroit at the deadline. He was a guy who had a solid US college career but that offense couldn’t translate to the AHL.
Highly doubtful that career totals of 6-5-11 in 36 games will be enough to impress the Oilers brass enough to keep him around. He’s only 23, someone will likely take a flyer on him.
Vesey is a guy PC traded this year’s 7th round pick to the Leafs for in 2018, and has spent his entire pro career thus far bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. Pass. Hebig is a clone of the last 2 players mentioned in that he has put up disappointing numbers in the AHL and this year is an ECHL bubble player. No thanks, gone. Malone has been a quality AHL bubble player for the organization for the past 3 seasons but they have to make room for actual NHL prospects, so Malone can sign on somewhere else or perhaps finish his career in Europe.
Will you miss these guys? I know I won’t.
Expiring contracts that could come back – Josh Currie
Explanation – I was impressed with Currie’s call-up last season as he put up 2 goals and 5 points in 21 games in an injury fill-in. Currie has been able to put up points in the AHL and IMO deserves more of a chance as he certainly didn’t look out of place when he was up here. The only black mark is he’s now 27 so he’ll be a late bloomer. He’d be worth at least a 1-year contract, though, IMO. He could take on a bigger role without Yamamoto on the farm.
Projected arrivals – Filip Berglund, Theodor Lennstrom, Markus Niemelanen
Explanation – These guys are going to be in tough as defense is currently the strength of the system’s prospect pool. Nonetheless, with Berglund and Niemelanen both draft picks from the 3rd round in 2016 graduating to the pro ranks from Sweden, that’s encouraging to see. Berglund put up a career-best 20 points in 52 games this season, which is solid for a d-man. Whether that translates over to North American hockey or not we will find out.
Niemelanen’s numbers are not impressive on the face of it – his career-high was 7 points in 52 games this season – so it’s reasonable to assume the team sees him as a stay at home D prospect. Only time will tell whether his ability to defend is good enough for the North American pro ranks. Lennstrom comes to us as a free agent from Europe, the 1st d-man who played in Europe last season that Holland has brought in – expect a fair amount of them here as time goes on in his tenure as our GM. Hard to say if any of these guys are surefire NHL players, but after the can’t miss guys like Evan Bouchard become full-time Oilers, these are the guys who will get more minutes and a higher profile as prospects.
Projected departures – Logan Day, Keegan Lowe
Explanation – Day is a player who seems to have had some injury issues this year. He did really well in his first full-time pro season, putting up 34 points in 64 games. Unfortunately, those totals have dipped to 16 points in 48 games. That’s a PPG dip, too – from 0.53 to 0.33. His +/- was really scary too, as it dipped from +14 last season to -17 this season. That’s a HUGE dip and, well, that doesn’t bode well for an NHL career if you’re leaking goals against in the AHL. If I’m in player development for the Oilers, I look at the quality of guys coming in and I choose to pass on Day.
Some other organizations may take a flyer on him, or he could try his luck in Europe. All 3 of the newcomers look like better options in their own end at this point, so I can’t see any justification for bringing Day back. Lowe is in the organization at a time when they now have the luxury of focusing more on prospects than on filling the roster on the farm team, and thus AHL bubble players like him will be pushed off the roster as actual prospects come in and need spots. He’s had 4 games in the NHL over 8 seasons and produced literally 0 offense in those games. His roster spot is best used on someone else. See ya. Another organization could sign him to an AHL contract or he could go the Europe route.
Expiring contracts that could come back – William Laggesson
Explanation – I could honestly see Laggeson come back on a short term 2 way contract and be a candidate for a 6th or 7th d-man with the Oilers next season. He didn’t produce any offence in the 8 games he was here earlier in the season, but he didn’t seem to look out of place in his own end. Last year he had a solid rookie season in Bakersfield and solid playoffs afterwards – 27 points in 67 games and then 4 points in 10 playoff games.
I’d like to see how he does in a bottom 6 role with the Oilers in longer time. IMO he deserves at least a callup next season to see how he does. How was this different than Logan Day you ask? Day didn’t even deserve a callup, while Laggesson did. If the Oilers want to cut him loose, I could see it, but IMO he should be kept around in the short term to see how he handles the increased competition for roster spots. He’s only 24 so time is on his side.
Projected arrivals – Olivier Rodrigue
Explanation – Now I know what you’re thinking here – Rodrigue signed an ELC last season, how is he a new arrival? Simple, he hasn’t played a game for Bakersfield yet.
The last move we have on record for him is a re-assignment back to his team in junior. In 2018. He signed his contract a year later. If you look at the numbers, Rodrigue is coming into the organization at a fortunate time for him. Goaltending is by far the most shallow end of the prospect pool. You have to see it to believe it, it’s really bad.
Yup, if you look at the goaltenders, it’s not good. And it’s not just this season – the Oilers haven’t done a very good job at developing their goaltenders, and no one from the current trio is a candidate for time in the NHL at all. And it’s not just for next season either – the Oilers haven’t drafted a good goaltender since Devan Dubnyk – and that was in 2004.
Ouch. Not a single player on the list who even has an sv% above .900 or a GAA below 3.00. The only silver lining in the group is Stuart Skinner, who started off horribly just like the other 2 but appears to have done better in the 2nd half of the season, as he was named AHL player of the week earlier on in the season.
Rodrigue was drafted in the 2nd round of 2018, so he’s the long term hope the Oilers have in net right now, with 1 Russian pick from 2019 who will supposedly report 2 seasons from now when his KHL contract is up. Hopefully, these 2 will change this history eventually.
Projected departures – Shane Starrett, Angus Redmond
Starrett is a goalie who has struggled for most of his career in the pros. He had 1 good season out of 3 – year 2, when he had a .918 sv% and a 2.33 GAA. The other 2 years he has had an sv% under .900 and a GAA above 3.00. Doesn’t exactly scream NHL calibre to me. His contract is up after this season and the Oilers will let him walk.
Redmond, meanwhile, was a throw-in in the Joel Persson trade at the trade deadline. Redmond has played most of his career in the ECHL – and his stats have rarely been impressive enough to earn even an AHL callup. That tells you everything you need to know about him. Bring back an average ECHL level goalie? No, thanks, I’ll pass.
Order of skill in prospect pool
And that’s it, the visit to the farm is done. Let’s hear what you think in the comments below.